Family Matters: Anthony Anderson Talks Breaking Boundaries With New Sitcom “Black-ish”

ABC’s new sitcom “Black-ish” is an edgy comedy in the vein of their established hit “Modern Family,” which is likely why they’re paired together at in the 9pm ET hour (“Black-ish at 9:30pm) on Wednesday nights.

The show centers on a black family living in Los Angeles, the Johnsons, dealing with the negative impact of financial success. On the debut episode, Andre (Anthony Anderson) works at an advertising agency and he’s on the verge of a major promotion on the job. His wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an anesthesiologist. The couple has four children who are smart, engaging and apparently, color blind.

There is certainly an air of “The Cosby Show” with this sitcom, but it’s more like the hip Huxtables with a lot of edge. caught up with the show’s star, co-creator and executive producer Anderson in New Orleans this summer during the Essence Music Festival where we sat down to talk about “Black-ish.”[divider]

Cast of “Black-ish”

What are you hoping folks take away from “Black-ish?”

First and foremost, our television show is to entertain.  By no stretch of the imagination are we trying to define what blackness is with this show and the title, but what I want people to take away from it is to be entertained and see the stories that I’ve lived. They’re also my partner Kenya Barris’ experience. Hopefully they can learn something from what we’re putting on the screen. It’s our truth and it’s honest and that’s all I can do. I leave everything on the stage floor while we’re filming this.

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Even though the cast is Black and these are your experiences, I feel the subject matter has broad reach.

Jawn Murray & Anthony Anderson in New Orleans

It’s a story that everyone can identify with. It’s a story about three generations under one roof in Laurence Fishburne as my father, myself and my children. We teach each other, we teach each generation and we learn from each generation.

There’s no laugh track on this show and I notice you all use the single camera format that “Modern Family” uses. Why did you decide to go that route with this show?

We chose to do single camera because you can do a lot more. It feels different and looks so much better than multicam. We wanted to do this show in real time and not set-up, set-up, set-up and then joke. That’s not what our show is about and that’s not how you shoot a show like that. It’s a different stylized feel and color. The way its show and the way we look as a family is so much different than the way I looked years ago on a show I created called “All About The Andersons” or any other multicam sitcom.

Scene from “Black-ish”

And you’re pushing the boundaries with some of the racial topics. Were you surprised ABC was interested in this sitcom?

I applaud ABC for wanting to be edgy and telling this story and wanting to go there!

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Were you ever concerned in dealing with some racial topics and playing off some racial stereotypes would rub some people the wrong way?

Anthony Anderson in New Orleans

There were no reservations in us creating this show and doing this show because its our life. I can only speak to how I live my life and what I’m doing and if you’re entertained by that and you enjoy the stories that I’m doing, then I’m winning. If a successful, positive, loving Black family and if that’s the stereotype then I want that stereotype all day every day.

I love the title but there are those confused about its meaning.

We can talk about the elephant in the room. People who haven’t seen the show have come up with their own connotation of the show is about and what the title means, by no stretch of the imagination we’re trying to define what Black is. On the pilot there’s a line in there when I say, ‘I’m raising a Black family, not a Black-ish family.’ That goes to incorporate my son having the majority of his friends being Jewish and him coming home asking me for a bar mitzvah in my real life. It comes from my children trying to describe the only other African-American girl in their class by saying everything other than ‘the Black girl.’ That’s the reality in which I live and those are the stories and the honesty that we’re talking about.  [divider]

Cast of “Black-ish”

UPDATED: Ratings for the “Black-ish” premiere were very impressive. The show drew 10.8 million viewers, just down .1 from its lead-in “Modern Family.” It is the best premiere of any sitcom in that time slot in recent years. ABC is touting the show a runaway success!

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